Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Thanks for the well wishes yesterday. I'm feeling much better. I hate Michigan winters. Below is my assignment. I told people it would be posted Tuesday or Wednesday, so here it is.


Mike hated the boy more for crying. They pushed him under the staircase, warning him against crying out. Lewis held the kid’s arm behind his back, wrenching it upward to keep him on his toes and off balance.

“Don’t break it, for crying out loud,” said Mike. He checked to make sure no teacher had seen them, then stepped into the shadows.

“What you got in your pockets, homo?” asked Lewis, shoving a hand into the boy’s loose fitting trousers. The boy squirmed, but Lewis twisted the arm harder to make him cooperate.

Mike combed his pompadour back into place as he watched. This wasn’t going to end prettily. He found himself thinking of his stepfather, hearing the man’s slow speech.

“It ain’t like Mikey is the only boy who gets into trouble,” his stepfather would say. “Things ain’t the same they was when we was growing up.” Strangely, Mike resented his stepfather for standing up for him.

”No,” his mother would say: “Things are better. A hell of a lot better.”

Mike remembered how his grandfather took him aside at his father’s funeral. There hadn’t been a coffin, but instead a folded American flag and a picture of his Dad taken in uniform on one of his leaves from Korea.

“You ever been hit so hard you can’t breathe?” asked Grandfather as they stood looking at the picture.


Grandfather nodded, taking a one dollar bill from his wallet. He handed it to his grandson.

“What’s this for?” asked Mike.

Grandfather looked embarrassed, his eyes were shiny, and his face was red. He turned without answering and left the funeral home without another word. He hadn’t seen or heard from his grandfather since that time. He and his mother seemed to have been cut off after that, as though they were somehow responsible for the death of his father.

Mike heard the bell ring. Kids poured out of classrooms. Lewis looked up at him with concern. Mike wasn’t sure what took him over at that moment, but without understanding why, he balled his hand into a fist and punched the kid as hard as he could. Lewis’s mouth dropped open.

“Oh my God, that was boss,” said Lewis.

The boy slumped, then as Lewis released him, fell in a heap on the floor. Unconscious. Mike wanted to hit him again. Lewis leaned over to unbuckle the kid’s pants. He swiftly jerked the trouser legs over the kid’s shoes.

“Trophy,” said Lewis, rolling the pants up to shove them under his arm. “Wait till he comes around and has to go through school in his underwear.”

Mike reached into his back pocket and took out a one dollar bill. He bent over, shoving it into the kid’s half-open mouth.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Lewis. The next bell rang. It was amazing no one had come close. The sound of people on the stairs was loud. Mike felt as if time had stopped. They were invisible.

“You think he’ll squeal?” asked Lewis.

“It won’t matter five years from now,” said Mike, leaving the security of the stairwell.

“I ain’t worried about five years from now, I’m worried about now.”

Mike nodded, stepping away from Lewis and lost himself in the throng of students hurrying through the hall. He stepped outside, lighting a cigarette. The bell rang behind him, announcing the beginning of the next class period.


chumly said...

Sounds like an Al Pacino.

Kate S said...

"Stark" ;) and brutal. You gave Mike enough sympathy to make him even more horrible.

Nice job!

Susan Miller said...

It's always a pleasure reading your work, Stu.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thanks chumly, I'll take Al Pacino. Kate, it's funny but as horrible as the event was I never considered it as horrible, or Mike as villainous.Sue, Thank you much.

I don't think people will like this work. The resolution isn't satisfactory, the action is brutal, and the main character isn't someone with whom to identify. Still, I liked it enormously.

The title refers to the main character from Rebel Without A Cause. The film was released in 1955 and James Dean died in September of that year. Ironic that his death occurs with what some people consider to be the birth of the anti-establishmentary,rebellious teen. The late forties and early fifties give us a Lost Generation.

In my mind Mike is leaving. He walks out of that school and will not walk back again. If he goes home, it will only be to grab his things. He might hear west. He might end up in the army.

I will be filing this incident away and perhaps use it for building a character in some future event.

SQT said...

I actually prefer the character of Mike to Lewis. You get the sense that Mike is battling something and taking it out on the poor kid who's the victim. But Lewis is the type to admire it without having the guts to do it himself. Mike kind of seems like the classic Alpha dog.

Lucas Pederson said...

keyayfGreat story! I liked Mike most of all. Very real for that time period. I read about it, and watched a lot of movies from the 50's and those set int he fifties. Everything is raw and brutal. My grandfather served in the Korean war and he told me stories that would fit perectly in a horror novel. Gruesome stuff.

Lori Witzel said...

Darn it, I keep wanting to re-read and then comment, but have to flip back and forth, and I'm just too tired to keep the focus straight.

In a nutshell, I liked. Succinct. Like origami, huge vast rooms and chambers and hallways of character unfold from the simplest, brutal acts.